There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
My first night at Kabob Palace was one of many visits to the ethnic restaurants along South Eads Street in Crystal City. I returned with the same company in a similar state. One night we tried Punjab Kabob’s chicken karahi, a hearty curry served in its metal cooking vessel with a side of freshly baked Naan. We were starving.
My buddy Shayan, who is of Bengali descent, tore off a piece of freshly baked bread and dove into the karahi, fingers first.
I was curious. I’d used a hunk of pita as a utensil to dish out hummus or tabbouleh, but karahi was another animal. The chicken dish was more of a stew, and there wasn’t enough bread to scoop every bite. I’d never eaten anything this soupy with my fingers. I got a few pointers, noting his fingers were only messed to his first knuckle. But by the end of the meal I had curry on my elbows.
I’ve since gotten better with my hands, and now can’t imagine eating Indian food with a fork. Using your hands adds a completely new dimension to a meal. It’s a visceral and tactile exploration that leaves your fingernails yellowed with turmeric, and your finger tips laced with spice.
I dined with Sudhir Seth once after an interview about his restaurant Passage to India, and he noted that my use of my hands impressed him. I felt proud. Yet when I’m at a table full of utensil users, with clanking silverware, I feel something closer to shame using my fingers. I won’t deny myself though. A curry’s not a curry unless I feel it glistening between my fingertips, touching pickles and rice to mix to make the perfect bite.
Eating with my hands: It’s my guilty pleasure.
Photo by rubber_slippers_in_italy, via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribute License